This Greenville Journal article by Paul Hyde was originally published on January 31st, 2024. Photo: Shawn Salley
It’s been called an American Dream story with an undercurrent of the American nightmare.
“The Lehman Trilogy” follows the 164-year saga of the legendary investment firm Lehman Brothers from its founding by three immigrant brothers to its devastating collapse in 2008.
The Warehouse Theatre is staging the Upstate’s first production of the Tony Award-winning epic that features three actors playing a dozen roles each.
The original 2020 production of “The Lehman Trilogy” took Broadway by storm, earning eight Tony nominations and winning five, including Best Play.
The story begins in 1844 with the arrival in America of a young man from Bavaria, Hayum Lehmann, who is immediately reborn as Henry Lehman by a port official who doesn’t understand his real name.
Henry and his two brothers establish a cotton and fabrics shop in Alabama that eventually will be transformed into a New York-based global financial powerhouse by their descendants.
It’s a classic American tale of immigrant success but also of greed, brutal acquisition and occasional unethical practices.
As in the Broadway production, The Warehouse Theatre’s staging, Feb. 2-18, creates a multigenerational epic with minimal set pieces — a few benches and tables — spotlighting the power of the play’s narrative, said director Jay Briggs.
“It’s storytellers’ theater, very simply told,” Briggs said. “It’s theater at its purest.
“I love asking the audience to be a collaborator with us in the process of imagining worlds and building stories,” he added.
The three-hour drama (with two intermissions) is a tour de force for the three actors who play not only the original Lehman brothers but also the founders’ children, grandchildren and other characters.
The production features three veterans of The Warehouse stage: Thomas Azar, Matt Reece and Christopher Joel Onken.
“To carry the story over the course of 164 years and seamlessly shift from generation to generation and character to character, it’s sort of miraculous,” Briggs said of his actors.
The original version of “The Lehman Trilogy,” by playwright Stefano Massini, was written in Italian and lasts five hours. The Warehouse Theatre is performing the adaptation seen on Broadway by British playwright Ben Power.
Theatergoers should note: Because of the length of the play, evening performances begin at 7 p.m.